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New HSBC CEO 'will not rock the boat'

John Flint's appointment to succeed Stuart Gulliver as CEO of HSBC Holdings Plc will not herald any major changes of direction for the bank but could lead to a sharper focus on wealth management and U.K. retail banking, according to analysts.

Flint has been with HSBC since 1989 and is currently CEO of the retail banking and wealth management division. He will replace Gulliver, who will retire, on Feb. 21, 2018.

"He is a safe pair of hands with a lot of internal experience, who will not rock the boat," Joseph Dickerson, London-based managing director at Jefferies International, said in an interview.

According to Ian Gordon, a London-based banks analyst at Investec, the choice of CEO is unlikely to result in any material changes in HSBC's outlook or strategy, but given Flint's professional background, it could mean that greater attention is paid to the retail and wealth management segments.

"This would be a continuation of a theme, as wealth is something that HSBC has been investing in and retail is an area where they've woken up to growth opportunities, for example, in the U.K.," he said.

Although Gulliver has been under pressure to streamline HSBC's operations and exit from less profitable markets, the bank is reportedly eyeing expansion in wealth management, particularly in Asia.

After HSBC appointed Mark Tucker from Hong Kong-based insurer AIA Group Ltd. as its chairman in March, there was speculation that it would follow up its first modern-era appointment of an external chairman by considering an external candidate for the post of CEO, too. HSBC had reportedly been considering former American International Group Inc. President and CEO Peter Hancock for the top job, as well as Lloyds Banking Group Plc CEO António Horta-Osório.